“It is right for me, the right thing for me to do as chief constable, to clearly state that institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist."

Sir Iain Livingstone pulled no punches with his stunning but stumbling admission that the force he has led for six years is racist and sexist.

He's been hailed as "commendable and courageous" for his acknowledgement of the problems within his organisation.

The First Minister, Humza Yousaf, said it was a "moment of vindication" for people of colour in Scotland.

Plaudits and back slapping has been the order of the day as other organisations rushed to congratulate the Chief Constable for his honesty and bravery.

Read more: Police Scotland is 'institutionally racist' admits chief constable

So how will history judge Iain Livingstone? Timing is, they say, everything so it's a damning indictment of his own leadership that he admits to a staggering problem - just as he's about to sail off into the retirement sunset.

But here's the thing - Police Scotland was created ten years ago. For all of those ten years Iain Livingstone has been in the police executive. In 2013 he was appointed a deputy chief constable and in 2018 he was handed the top job.

As I watched him read, not very confidently it has to be said, from a prepared statement it struck me that the timing was inexplicable, there was no sense of his own role in presiding over a force he has basically labelled a disgrace and there was very little thought into how his comments will affect an already demoralised workforce.

If Police Scotland is indeed a poisoned chalice then will Sir Iain stand up and admit he has been a key player since its birth? Will he admit to failing as a leader in tackling the problems head on?


Lobbing a grenade as you walk out the door of the very organisation you are in charge of is not commendable. Throwing hard-working rank and file police officers under a bus is not commendable.

What would have been laudable was if Sir Iain had acknowledged the problems while he was in office and in a position to affect change. With barely a few weeks to go he's passing that buck onto his successor. What a welcome that is.

There have been well documented cases of racism and sexism since 2013. The public inquiry into the 2015 death of Sheku Bayoh, who died after being restrained by police officers in Fife, is ongoing. The focus of the inquiry is to determine whether race was a factor in his death.

Then there was the Rhona Malone case where she accused senior officers of sexism and won £1million in damages.

Read more: Operation Branchform: Police chief rejects attacks on SNP probe

We've had former officers and members of the public claim they've been gagged with non-disclosure agreements to cover up sexism, misogyny, racism and wrongdoing. NDA's that would've been signed off by the police executive.

There are countless others who have long spoken out but their experiences have largely been brushed aside and hushed up while those they accused were promoted and protected.

We rightly demand that those who uphold the law are above reproach and the integrity of our police officers remains intact no matter the circumstances but tarring all officers with the same brush is not deserving of praise.

Every organisation has its bad eggs and it's very easy to criticise but while the debate rages on about an institution and its collective failures we must remember that the ordinary police men and women on the street do an incredibly stressful and difficult job.

Read more: Rank and file anger over Chief Constable's 'institutional racism'

Unprofessional behaviour shouldn't go unchallenged and Sir Iain's comments must not see individuals targeted by an angry public.

What absolutely must happen now before Sir Iain skips out the door is evidence presented that shows where police have failed, where they have been racist, sexist and discriminatory and where crimes have been committed. 

Sir Iain should be telling the public what action was taken to address those issues and share the learning processes and accountability for those very points. 

Questions must be asked and answered how a relatively young organisation was allowed to get to this place.

After all for six years one man has been responsible for the state of policing in Scotland and that was Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.
Leaders who lack accountability are doomed to failure. I suspect that despite his bold words history will not be kind to Sir Iain.

Jane Hamilton has been a crime reporter/columnist for 25 years. She is currently freelance and is writing a true crime book.